One Decadent Life: Part Two
Less than twenty-four hours later David and Tere were shunted forth from their airliner’s cosy fuselage into the glare of an unobstructed sun. In their black sunglasses, layers of grubby wool, smeary macquillage and withered lips, they were that species of pathetic refugee from the icy clutch of Manhattan. Grimacing pale green faces, curling away from the light, broke out in an unhealthy sheen. The Caribbean holiday — already intolerable.
As far as David was concerned, detox was well underway. Thank you gods and goddesses there’d be a maid. Someone to cook and clean and keep the cocktails coming, and every morning the rancid sweat would be bundled away.
But David was not congratulating himself. This was his tenth self-imposed detox retreat, in the fourteen years he he’d been an addict. He appalled himself… Fourteen fucking years how’s that even possible? His thoughts flew to his emergency stash, which he hadn’t told Tere about… just in case he got too sick. But he would wait at least another twenty-four hours to do any of it. After all I don’t want my entire vacation ruined and besides if I’m not too sick I can help Tere…
Thinking about helping his friend gave him a faint sense of superiority, considering that as far as he knew Tere had never once tried to clean up. She had no idea of the pain in store for her, like a massive flu attack, with wracking muscular contractions, interspersed with a mitochondrial cold that no number of blankets could warm. And the vomiting… and the insomnia…
From outside the white-washed wooden hangar, a tiny structure that comprised the whole of the Saint-Barthelemy airport, he could hear Tere’s shrieking whine and smiled as he smoked a cigarette: No, she’s not gonna be much fun for the next few days.
All he wanted was a shower, a pitcher of ice-cold daiquiris and a nap, alone if possible. He caressed the plastic bottle in his pocket: a new prescription for 20 milligrams of Valium. Five might get me to sleep… He wanted to wake up with the awful bright-blue sky gone velvet-black and cool. The images of this simple plan assuaged his nerves… he threw the cigarette away and inhaled warm, flower-fragrant air into his dessicated lungs.
Now Tere was about twenty feet away, accompanied by three apparent airline officials, though their uniforms needed some work. One fellow was actually barefoot… David was regarding those brown muscular feet with amusement when he realized the three were trying to prevent her from going back into the airlines’ shack… yes, Tere was being thrown out, as she cursed them in a patois of French, Spanish and Long Island drag-queen:
“YA MOTHAFOCKIN’ CANAILLE I’M GONNA RIP OFF YER CAHONES.” Translation: You blankey-blank trash I’m going to remove your testicles.
“Tere what in hell?”
“THE LUGGAGE THE MOTHAS SAY THEY DON’ HAVE OUR BAGS! THEY ARE FOCKIN’ LIARS I SAW THEM PUT IN THE HOLD IN ST. MAARTEN!”
The responsible individuals did not seem overly concerned. Tere’s fit was in fact so amusing they as one exaggerated their indifference, for the pleasure of seeing the crazy American woman shake her white hair, swing her pocketbook, and rake the air before their faces with her long skinny arms.
David’s anxiety level, manageable as he pictured his nerves’ coddling, rose to a high-pitched inner scream as he considered the luggage might be gone for good. He’d of course packed his stash. So was this cold turkey… and if the bags were being searched by some species of drug enforcement… cold turkey in jail. And the way Tere was raving, yeah she had her stash too.
After some disbelieved assurances that the luggage was probably still in St. Maarten, and would be delivered when the next plane came in, David made certain they had Marilyn’s address. He was not reassured when they said they knew the house. New York junkies, coming down regularly to kick, and all of them with emergency heroin… though David did not recollect hearing of anyone getting busted. These locals in the know… probably just confiscate the good New York doojie and do it themselves.
He managed to stumble across a blistering hot white gravel parking lot, and fall into a waiting taxi-cab. Tere was still banging on the locked glass doors —
“JE RETOURNERAI FUCKHEADS TO SLIT YOU FROM NOSE TO DICK!”
“TERE!” David shouted. He winced out at the street: folks of all ages, dressed in unbearably bright primary colours, seemed to swarm in lively, sickening circles around the dozens of vendors. All of them devouring, pungent meats, served right off sidewalk grills, lurid mangoes and papaya, guzzling pop from bottles. A huge woman swathed in a flowered sheath padded by, barefoot and languid, carrying a load of fruit on her head. The simple island life! free-living and passionate, garish, absurdly vital, all of it deeply offensive to his nervous system.
Two ragamuffins wandered up to the taxi window to regard the strange man; for a few minutes just staring as if at a television. The fanatical sun-glassed look of him, the long hair, the flaccid white skin — they decided he was an Englishman. Then another child ran up, and another, and one dared stick his head into the opposite open window. David startled, then smiled at the handsome boy, “Hey you!”
“Hey you,” the child repeated, “hey you Meek Jegg?’
David laughed. The kid thought he was Mick Jagger, well that rock and roll star did have some sort of palace on Mustique, a private island in the Grenadines… He tried rolling up the window on the child’s neck.
The taxi was suddenly surrounded by a pack of children, and the driver locked the doors.
“Rolly Sto! Rolly Sto!” * a chorus went up, and David looked frantically for Tere, who was halfway across the parking lot. The children caught sight of her and rushed her —
“BLANDIE! EES BLANDIE!” **
David slumped down in the backseat as more boys clambered over the trunk of the taxi. Now the driver got out and waved his arms lethargically… a few scattered. David watched Tere swatting at them violently with her aluminum attache, “FILTHY LI’L FUCKS! YOUSE SHOULDA ALL BEEN FUCKIN ABORTED!”
Some victims were left crying on the sidewalk, as other grew more aggressive, clutching at her knees to stop her from walking, one child leaping at her, to wrap his legs around her waist. All of them squalling:
“MEEK JEG! BLANDIE!”
David unlocked the back door and Tere pried it open, with the adorable if nasty child still clamped around her hips. A fervent, wet kiss was planted on her eye, and he gave a last sigh, “Ahhh Blandie” as the swearing driver dragged him away by his feet.
Three hours later, David was not napping, though the sky was streaked with consoling reds and violets as the sun set over the ocean. He was ensconced on the spacious teak deck, several empty cocktail glasses on the table next to him. The maid, Eunice, an enormous lady of the island, was able to keep them coming, but seemed uninterested in taking away the cadavers. *** He had had his hot shower, and was wrapped in one of Bramwell’s terry-cloth robes. He glared at his black cashmere coat still crumpled on the floor of the deck where he’d shed it. Why doesn’t she pick it up? What’s the point of servants if you have to tell them what to do?
He was keeping his chair pointedly turned away from the interior grand salon, where two of his greatest paintings were on display: The Iconography of Hell and one of the Tarots, The Magician. Gorgeous, grand, each one ten feet long and five feet wide: the faint radiance from a new moon rising glanced off the gold leaf embedded in the oils. He had almost forgotten the paintings were down there, and he hated the way Marilyn had hung them: on wires, like mobiles, flying off the room’s mezzanine.
They were from what the critics had called his ‘heroic period.’ A mere six years ago — seems like six centuries. Bramwell and Marilyn had jetted in a dozen friends and collectors, to celebrate that sold-out show — oh Aloysius! You did me so well. He’d received the best reviews ever, gotten orders for two dozen more works. As he reminisced he realized, with the exception of his hosts, that none of those people were his friends anymore.
Heroic period bah humbug. I conquered nothing, and nobody, a conquerer with neither country nor slaves.
Blindly he hated the paintings. He gritted his teeth at the moon. Her dim golden horn dinned back at him, imperious. Yet patient. He would paint her again. David wanted to derive some consolation from her beauty, from the fulsome scents of the jungle around… he tried to rise out of himself.
But he felt too sick. He screamed for Eunice. No answer… he started up from his low-slung chair and grappled at the cocktail pitcher, drank down the dregs and yelled again. It took what seemed to him an immense effort to get out of the chair and shuffle to the kitchen… to stare into melted ice-trays. The woman had left without saying goodbye. He snatched up a half-bottle of rum and went into the grand salon.
Before his Work he upended the bottle. He winced at the paintings, at the crazy wires, the lighting he imagined was atrocious. And I practically gave them to her… she got them for nothing. He thought of stealing them back, selling them to Rolfie who would love that they were contraband. As he realized what he was thinking a wave of self-disgust rushed him, and drank the bottle down.
I’m a fucking pig. No wonder I can’t stand looking at them. I’m not worthy of them.
He had achieved his vision, reached an epitome. And now that was his scourge.
I’ll never be that good again.
In the midst of these metaphysical revulsions Tere wanly materialized. Her limbs were clad in a hideous orange chiffon sort of burnoose. The contrasting tragedies were too much for David who began to howl.
“Don’t fuckin dare laugh at me! Nothin’ else fits… she’s a two or something… and all she’s got down here is shit from the seventies!” She began to actually cry, which made David laugh harder.
She had just spent an hour scraping out the crevices of her various make-up bags, in futile hope of amassing something snortable. She often tossed a bag or two in with the lipsticks and face powder. She’d inhaled the last one in the airplane bathroom, when they’d first taken off… but what she snuffled up now was mostly Coty. ****
Just my fucking luck! Two nights ago I had half a pound now what the fuck am I gonna do?
She glared at David and the empty rum bottle, “Where is that godawful bitch maid? Get me a cocktail!”
“She left without saying good-bye… but the liquor cabinet’s full.”
Tere stomped over and extracted a bottle of vodka, cracked it open and transferred several fingers into The Face. David sniggered, “Gonna be a real fun night tonight, here at ‘Hell On Earth Resorts,’ a real swingin’ Tea Party With the Demons!”
“Fuck the demons, I’ve got you, which is alot worse.”
The clocks ticked on past midnight. Our hero raves from the depths of his lounge, and whilst arrayed about him are the prodigious comforts of moon, sea, and verdant jungle, he curses the universe.
New gods my ass I can’t even make a new demon anymore. Same old freaking demon, parasite Heroin Demon
“How did my New God turn into a parasite?”
Tere is not listening, composing a tragic aria of her own from a fetal position halfway under one of the sofas. Her mouth is bitter from vodka and Valium, she’s nauseous, aching, freezing cold. But she snuggles into the plushy carpet I may be fucked up but anyhow Anya and Caroline can’t get at me.
She wants the sun… the sun… When its first rays appear, she’ll know the first twenty-four hours are over.
* Rolly Sto. The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger’s rock band.
** Blandie. Blondie, famous punk-rock band, whose glamourous lead singer, Deborah Harry, is a blonde; she was often mistakenly called “Blondie” instead of Debby.
*** In France, an empty vessel that once contained alcohol is referred to as a ‘cadavre,’ or cadaver. Usually applied to an empty wine bottle.
**** Coty: brand name of a dime-store face powder.
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